Looking back just days after the Arctic Winter Games ended on March 24, Mayor Brad Mapes says Hay River can feel proud of a successful event.
“I’m extremely proud of our community, our sister community of Fort Smith and all the other people in the South Slave that made the games happen,” he said.
Mapes added the games will be something that people will remember for years to come.
“To me, I think it was a great success and it just shows what kind of community we have,” he said. “We’re doers.”
As for what the games meant for Hay River, Mapes pointed out how people pulled together for a common cause.
“People came together and got things done,” he said. “There were people that maybe disagreed with each other on different ideas about the town in the past, but when it came to the games everybody put their heads together and worked to make the games happen. That’s what I see as the best of the town.”
When asked if the town might now miss the focus of the Arctic Winter Games, Mapes noted other people have said the same thing.
“I’ve heard that from a few people now. That they feel like everybody worked towards the games,” he said.
However, he feels there are other challenges ahead that can unite people.
“We’re going to be able to accomplish a lot more of it now because the big banana of the Arctic Winter Games is done,” he explained. “We’ve still got to deal with the Arctic Winter Games for the next few months to ensure that we don’t overspend and get all of the dollars and cents back in the games, and see how it works out.”
Plus, he noted the NWT Track and Field Championships will make its annual appearance in Hay River in a few months and again bring well over 1,000 people into the community.
“So that’s something that’s going to be a big event,” he said.
Mapes also noted that, as an example of another goal, the community needs to have some kind of convention centre.
“We’ve proven that we can take and handle the numbers, so the next step is maybe looking at a goal of trying to get a convention centre that we can host a lot of these tourism items or conventions that are being held in Yellowknife or in the South,” he said.
Mapes was also asked whether the Arctic Winter Games may have changed some people’s opinions of Hay River.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that there’s some people in our community and outside of our community that thought that there’s no way that the community would be able to get this over and get it done,” he said. “But we were able to get it done, and I think those people who were naysayers probably came forward to help with the games.”
Mapes was asked about comments by Jens Brinch, the president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee, that transportation issues – especially the travel between Hay River and Fort Smith – would have to be better dealt with before the games would ever return to the South Slave.
The mayor said transportation might not be such an issue in a few more decades because he expects the town is going to grow significantly, even in the next few years.
“We could probably host the games ourselves with that much infrastructure,” he said. “I think that’s the change that’s going to happen. In 40 years, our community is going to be a lot bigger in size.”